Sample Nutrition Essay Paper on Effects of Vegan Diet on Health

A vegan diet is comprised of plant-based foods. These foods are vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains,
and other foods which are strictly derived from plants. A vegan diet does not include foods from
animal sources. An individual choice of a vegan diet is based on personal reasons. Some people
go vegans for health reasons- low risk for some diseases; others chose to be vegans to protect the
environment and to avoid harming the animal. A plant-based diet has real health benefits, but
going off animal products completely pose some challenges of lack of certain vital nutrients.
Consequently, a vegan diet has a remarkable impact on health ranging from chronic disease
management and control to reduction of risk of some diseases.
Health Impact of Vegans Diet

Vegan’s diet is usually rich in dietary fibre, folic acid, magnesium, iron, photochemical, and
vitamins C and E. The diet also tends to be low in saturated fats and cholesterol, calories, omega-
3 fatty acids, zinc, calcium, vitamins D and B-12. In general, people who practice a vegan diet
enjoy health benefits. For instance, they have a low risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD),
diabetes type two, obesity, and low risk of some cancer strains (Radnitz, Beezhold, & DiMatteo,
2015). Plant-based foods have a higher rating in reducing chronic diseases due to the metabolic
evidence they imply.
The high intake of fruit and vegetables lowers the risk of cancer growth. Also, the rate of
reducing CVD and osteoporosis risk is impressive. Reduced intake of whole grains has been
shown to increases risk of colorectal cancer and diabetes type 2; reduced intake of nuts increases
the risk of cardiovascular disease (Radnitz et al., 2015). Therefore, the choice of plant-based
foods has a positive impact on health that outweighs the negative effects on health.

Effects of Vegan Diet on Cardiovascular Diseases
One area where a vegan diet has implied a significant impact is on reducing cardiovascular
diseases. Clinical observations of vegans are that they are thinner; they have lower blood
pressure and low-density lipoprotein as compared to other vegetarians (Zarraga, & Schwarz,
2006). A low body mass index (BMI) and low blood lipids are evident in vegans across races and
not only in whites. Observing vegans diet will put an individual on a safer side of developing
CVD happens when there are fatty deposits on the inner walls of the arteries. These fatty
deposits restrict blood flow reducing the amount of blood that reaches essential organs such as
heart and brains. If the brained is denied enough blood flow an ischaemic stroke can develop,
and it can be severe depending on how long the brain is deprived oxygen (Zarraga, & Schwarz,
2006). Vegans diet have low plasma cholesterol, LDL, and observed low mean BMI, which
reduces the risk of obesity and lowers the level of blood lipids, significantly reducing heart
diseases risks.
Vegans consume large amounts of vegetables and fruits. Fruits and vegetables provide fibre,
antioxidants, folic acid, and phytochemicals (Tonstad, Butler, Yan, & Fraser, 2009). Correctively
these nutrients result in low blood cholesterol concentration, reduced stroke incidences, the
reduced mortality rate from ischaemic heart disease and stroke. Also, the high intake of soy,
whole grains and nuts provide cardioprotective effects.
Effects of a Vegan Diet on Cancer
In preventing the development and progression of cancer, vegan diet plays an important role.
This is because the vegetarian diet provides vital cancer-protective dietary components. Obesity

is one of the risk factors for developing cancer (Tantamango-Bartley, Jaceldo-Siegl, Fan, &
Fraser, 2013). The quality of the vegan diet of having low BMI effect helps in the control of
obesity, reducing the risk of cancer.
Vegan’s diet is characterized by more legumes, more fruits and vegetables, allium vegetables,
tomatoes, vitamin C and fibre than what is found in omnivores. These foods help to fight cancer
growth. Fruits and vegetables are effective against lung cancer, cancer of the mouth, oesophagus
and to some extent stomach cancer (Tantamango-Bartley et al., 2013). Legumes offer protection
against stomach and prostate cancer. Carotenoids, vitamin C, fibres and other plant
phytochemicals in the diet have been shown to protect against various cancers. Allium
vegetables and garlic protect against stomach cancer and colorectal cancer respectively with
tomatoes acting against prostate cancer.
The phytochemicals contained in fruits and vegetables are another big player in cancer
management. These phytochemicals have shown to contain potent antiproliferative and
antioxidant activity, and also they have additive and synergistic effects (Tonstad et al., 2009).
Due to these factors, phytochemicals interfere and controls cellular processes that result in cancer
progression. The mechanisms that are involved in cancer progression include blocking cell
proliferation, hampering DNA adduct formation, hindering phase 1 enzymes and oncogene
expression, lowering cell-cycle-arrest and apoptosis, inhibiting phase 2 enzymes, stopping
nuclear factor-Kb formation, and impeding angiogenesis (Tantamango-Bartley et al., 2013). The
decreased risk of cancer among vegetarians can be attributed to phytochemicals which
bioavailability is much determined by food preparation.
Another detail about vegan’s diet concerning cancer is the aspect of protein avoided and the
protein consumed. Red meat is mostly associated with risk of colorectal cancer. The range of risk

of esophageal, colorectal, lung and liver cancer is between 20% and 60% for those who consume
large quantities of red meat than those who consume less red meat. Also, eggs consumption has
been associated with the development of pancreatic cancer. Vegans avoid meat and eggs
altogether; instead, they consume more legumes as an alternative protein source. Legumes are
associated with reduced risk of prostate cancer and colon cancer. Therefore, the protein source
choice of vegans puts them in a favorable position when it comes to cancer development.
Effects of Vegan Diet on Bone Health
Another health field where vegans’ diet has a significant effect is bone health. The evidence
shows no difference in bone mineral density (BMD) in trabecular and cortical bones between
lacto-ovo-vegetarians and omnivores (Tucker, 2014). But, in Asian women, spine and hip bone
mineral density were showed to be low in long-term vegans. A vegan diet has low protein and
calcium intake, and this can be attributed to being the cause of hip and spine bone loss and
fractures among the elderly.
A vegan generally faces the problem of consuming inadequate calcium. This is because a vegan
diet falls short of the recommended daily intake (RDA) for calcium (Tucker, 2014). Although the
risk of bone fracture among vegans is the same as that of omnivores, the increased occurrence of
bone fractures in vegans is attributed to consumption of insufficient calcium.
In general, bone health depends on other nutrients, not just protein and calcium. Vitamin D,
vitamin K, magnesium and potassium from soy and vegetables and fruits affect bone health. A
vegan diet provides these crucial elements from an appropriate choice of food. Acid-base balance
is significant in maintaining bone health. Since calcium is used as a buffer in extracellular fluid
pH, a drop in pH results to bone resorption (Tucker, 2014). A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is

a typical vegan diet and has a positive influence on calcium levels which is a critical ingredient
in bone metabolism.
Fruits and vegetables are rich in potassium and magnesium. These two minerals create alkaline
ash that prevents bone resorption. Intake of potassium in required RDA is associated with greater
BMD of the lumbar spine and femoral neck among premenopausal women.
In addition, the intake of soy products increases soy isoflavones which are significant in
maintaining bone health by improving BMD. Vegan’s diet provides bone protective factors;
therefore, by ensuring there is an adequate intake of calcium bone health is not an issue among
Shortcomings OG Vegans Diet
To get a nutritionally balanced diet, an individual must know what constitutes such a balanced
nutritional diet. Another essential detail to obtain such a diet is the accessibility of foods. These
are those foods that are fortified with nutrients that are lacking in a diet to make in nutritionally
stable (Pistollato et al., 2015). The accessibility of these fortified foods is dependent on the
geographical region a consumer resides since different countries have put in place different
fortification laws. Some nutrients are vital to health, and a vegan diet does not provide. The
supplemental source of these nutrients is essential to avoid adverse effects on health.
n-3 Polyunsaturated fat
Vegans’ diet strictly does not include any animal or animal products in its composition. That is
to mean fish, sea vegetables and eggs which are the source of long-chain n-3 fatty acids,
docosahexaenoic acid (DHA; 22:6n-3), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA; 20:5n-3) are not
included in the diet (Saunders, Davis, & Garg, 2013). These fatty acids are important in

maintaining cardiovascular health, eye health and brain functions. Plants have a type of n-3 fatty
acid known as α-linoleic acid (ALA; 18:3n-3), this fatty acid can be converted into EPA and
DHA though with low efficiency (Saunders et al., 2013). Vegans have a low concentration of
EPA and DHA in their blood as compared to other types of diets.
Vegans can find DHA in microalgae supplementation that contains DHA and in DHA fortified
foods. The body can get EPA from DHA retro conversion; also brown algae (kelp) are a good
source of EPA. The RDA of EPA and DHA are 1.6 ALA/D for men and 1.1 ALA/d for women
which is less than 1% of daily calorie intake (Saunders et al., 2013). The regular supply of ALA-
rich foods and DHA fortified foods ensure the vegan attain the essential n-3 fatty acids.
However, these DHA supplements should be taken in moderation since they can give rise to total
cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, although they can lower blood plasma triacylglycerol.
Vitamin D
The vegan diet has a low supply of vitamin D in general. The most inadequate mean intake of
vitamin D is 0.88µg/d, for vegans this mean is attained by sun exposure and intake of vitamin D
fortified foods (Ho-Pham et al., 2012). In world regions where there is no food fortification with
vitamin D, supplementation of vitamin D is essential. Another group of vegans that need
supplementation are those that live in high latitudes where the sun in inadequate for months in a
year and those who cover their bodies for cultural reasons hampering skin exposure to the sun.
Another factor is that vitamin D2, which is the most acceptable form among vegans is less
bioavailable than vitamin D3, which is animal-derived.

There are two types of iron, heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron is found in animal sources
while non-heme is from plant foods. The absorption of heme iron from animal sources is much
higher than that of non-heme iron from plant sources (Craig, 2009). However, the hemoglobin
concentration and iron deficiency anaemia risk among vegans, omnivores and other vegetarians
are similar. This can be attributed to a large intake of vitamin C among vegans that improves
non-heme iron absorption rate. Vegans have low ferritin concentration, same mean values as
other vegetarians but low than mean concentration among omnivores.
Vitamin B-12
Vitamin B-12 is another vital nutrient that a vegan diet has a low supply. Vegans have a low
concentration of plasma vitamin B-12, they are more at risk of vitamin B-12 deficiency, and they
have significantly high plasma homocysteine concentration. Increased homocysteine is a risk
factor for osteoporotic bone fracture and CVD (Elmadfa & Singer, 2009). The complications that
result from vitamin B-12 deficiency include psychoses, ataxia, paresthesia, dementia,
concentration difficulties and mood and motor disturbances. In addition, apathy and delayed
milestone is an effect of vitamin B-12 deficiency.
A vegan diet is considered inferior in the supply of zinc. Grains, legumes and seeds which make
part of vegan’s diet have a component known as phytate. This component binds zinc inhibiting
its bioavailability. Although vegans have low zinc intake, they do not show immunocompetence
as it is implicated by assessment of cell cytotic activities (Foster, Chu, Petocz, & Samman,
2013). This is imputed to the presence of zinc absorption facilitators that help vegans adapt to
insufficient zinc supply.


Dietary Recommendations to Optimize Nutrients in a Vegan diet
To avoid vitamin B-12 deficiency, vegans should regularly consume vitamin B-12 fortified
foods. These foods include fortified soy, rice beverages, meat analogs, breakfast cereals, and
yeast fortified with vitamin B-12, or they can ensure a daily intake of vitamin B-12 supplements
(Craig, 2009). There is no unfortified plant food that contains active vitamin B-12.
To optimize calcium in the diet, foods fortified with calcium should be included regularly in the
diet. Calcium-fortified foods include calcium-fortified soy, ready-to-eat cereals, rice beverages
and apple and orange fortified juices and beverages (Craig, 2009). Vitamin D is found in most
fortified food, and where there is no fortification vitamin D supplement should be taken.
The choice of a vegan diet has a significant impact on the health of an individual. The impact is
dependent on the knowledge of appropriate components of a healthy diet, and this influences
food choices. Vegan’s diet is very vital in the management and control of chronic diseases.
These chronic diseases include diabetes type 2, cardiovascular diseases, bone health, and cancer.
Although a vegan diet provides most of the nutrients the body requires, some nutrients are
reduced in supply by avoiding animal sources entirely in the diet. Deficiency of these vital
nutrients can result in some negative effect on health, and some of the impacts can be
irreversible. The nutrients that are most compromised in the vegan diet include n-3 fatty acids,
vitamin B-12, vitamin D, calcium, and zinc. To ensure an adequate supply of these essential
nutrients, most plant foods are fortified with them, and regular intake of these fortified foods is
paramount to avoid deficiency. In cases where fortified foods are unavailable, supplementation is



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